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General Conference, Seventh session

Inaugural statement of Mr. Carlos Alfredo Magariños as new Director-General of UNIDO, 5 December 1997

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me, Mr. President, to add my appreciation to the many congratulations addressed to you on your election to the Presidency of this General Conference, and especially for the magnificent way that you have fulfilled your task.

Your election by consensus demonstrates that the Member States recognize your professional abilities and talents.

I would also specially like to congratulate the distinguished members of the Main Committee, whose outstanding efforts have made it possible to implement the decisions adopted.

I would also like to extend my most cordial compliments to my predecessor, Mr. Mauricio de Maria y Campos, who has led our Organization with energy through the most difficult days in its history.

It is to his dedication and talent that we owe, in large measure, the fact that UNIDO's stability and the viability of its important mission are assured. We wish him the greatest success in the high office that he will hold in the future, which will no doubt benefit from the significant experience he has gained in this Organization.

Allow me, distinguished delegates, to thank you most deeply and sincerely for the trust and the honour that you have conferred on me today by giving me the opportunity and responsibility for undertaking such an important role in the life of the Organization. I will devote every determination and every effort to this task, and turn your many expectations, reflected in my election, into concrete results, which will help to improve the standard of living of our peoples, through UNIDO's specific objective - industrialization.

During the recent electoral process, I had the opportunity to enormously enrich my knowledge of UNIDO thanks to the invaluable advice of developed and developing countries, through their representatives here in Vienna and in the capitals of the eighteen countries that I was able to visit. The views I gathered from UNIDO staff at all levels were also of great help and most useful.

Throughout this process, it was easy to see a common thread: the desire to "transform" the Organization.

Transform it into a flexible and dynamic institution able to face up to a highly complex and changing international economic and political scene and, above all, substantially different from the one in which UNIDO was created and developed.

Transform it into an entity that is able to serve the Member States when the Community of Nations is not making obvious progress in overcoming poverty and marginalization, despite the enormous achievements in overcoming the conflicts which governed international relations for so many years.

In this sense, this Conference's decision to approve the "General Plan of Activities" submitted for its consideration by the Industrial Development Board, is of great importance. This document will certainly be the cornerstone of the demand for transformation.

You may note that I have throughout carefully and deliberately avoided using the word "reform". I believe that we need a period of calm. In the recent past, no doubt driven by circumstances, the word "reform" was used too often in association with the word "reduction". To continue to do the same, or to do things in the same way with a smaller budget, is not reform, it is reduction.

Reform, to my way of thinking, is more than that. It means changing structures and procedures, releasing resources and applying them to developing new products and seeking new and better ways of fulfilling the Organization's objectives. In a word, unlike reduction, it is the first step forwards in the process of transformation.

That is why I prefer to describe the process that lies ahead of us as one of transformation. Fortunately, we can take advantage of what has already been achieved through reduction and reform but we will have to include other things in order to bring about true transformation.

That was the mandate which clearly emerged from this honourable Conference concerning the UNIDO's role and priority activities, also relating to the allocation of the budget and staff to carry them out.

This, like other decisions adopted afterwards, reflects the will of all the Member States to work in an atmosphere of harmony, thus increasing the chance of consensus, rather than the alternative of calling for votes.

This is the necessary condition for the success of our transformation, and I will do all in my power to maintain and encourage this working environment. I will do it in the only way possible, by committing all my efforts, with transparency, with openness to criticism and with respect for all and every one of those involved in this transformation.

That is why I wish to devote myself to the utmost to fulfilling the mandate of this Conference without delay. I wish to apologize in advance to the many countries who have invited me to visit them and to ask them to understand my decision to stay in Vienna as much as possible in order to carry out the fundamental transformation which has been decided here. I know that they have been difficult and complex decisions. But I am convinced that they were taken with great determination and courage. Implementing these decisions will require sacrifice, determination, consensus, creativity and, above all, great commitment.

I believe my presence will be necessary to lead this process. I have made arrangements to start work immediately, and for that I shall require the permanent presence in this city of all the Organization's key management. I attach the greatest importance and the highest priority to forming a multidisciplinary and multinational working group to safeguard properly the Organization's objectives, without forgetting the diversity of regional interests.

Starting from the definition of roles and substantive activities set out in the "General Plan of Activities", we must immediately embark on implementing a new structure, with new working methods, a more precise definition of our products, services and programmes, and greater interaction between the Organization's various departments.

We shall have to do this while at the same time reducing the overlapping and duplication of tasks and activities with other agencies in the Multilateral System and with the bilateral aid programmes being implemented by many countries. It will therefore be necessary to integrate UNIDO more precisely in the United Nations System and, above all, interact more specifically with the private sector. Working with the private sector has to be one of my highest aspirations and priorities.

Greater integration with the private sector and with the Multilateral System, taking into account UNIDO's functions, will allow us to reach a better definition of areas of cooperation, programmes, products and services.

That will be the only way of reducing the budget to the levels approved by this Conference while still retaining our ability to serve the Member States. UNIDO cannot do everything for everyone on its own. The new reality compels us to interact with the rest of the Multilateral System if we wish to maintain our ability to serve developing countries. This reality not only involves a reduction in the resources available for multilateral economic cooperation, but also results from the application of a modern and dynamic concept of sustainable industrialization.

The reform of the United Nations proposed by the Secretary-General includes suggestions along these lines, and I have already had the opportunity to discuss them with him. We must explore this aspect more deeply in the future.

I shall have to redefine UNIDO's presence in the field very rapidly. To do this, it will be necessary to increase the independence and authority of field offices and improve their links and interaction with the rest of the Organization. It is virtually certain that it will be necessary to redistribute the human resources of the Organization, by transferring some of the experts from central offices, here in Vienna, to the field. The criteria to be used for this decentralization will be determined on a case by case basis.

Staff reductions will also have to be made immediately, with a maximum of transparency and absolute respect for the applicable regulations. I shall study this issue in consultation with representatives of the staff of UNIDO. Personally, I believe that the morale and enthusiasm of the Organization's staff will have to be restored, after they have been hit so many times by repeated reductions over recent years, using modern and transparent methods which allow them to develop, and in many cases, complete, an honourable and successful career.

But this transformation must have a purpose. It cannot be undertaken or explained as transformation for its own sake, it cannot be justified solely or even mainly on the grounds of reduced contributions or available resources.

Ours will therefore have the only possible purpose: the mandate issued by this General Conference, the need to remove the causes of the criticisms we hear of UNIDO. This transformation will seek to increase the impact of its activities in the field, especially in the least developed countries, and move towards the provision of more specific services, addressing more specific and better-targeted problems.

If we cannot help to solve practical everyday problems wherever necessary, wherever the need is present, wherever backwardness holds back people's development, then we cannot justify our transformation. Or even our existence. Nothing and no one can justify their existence on the basis of the past. It is by our present actions that we build our future.

Our priority must be Africa, and that is why I shall be listening closely to the Africans. We must review the value of what we do in this region and make our actions, services and programmes more effective. This does not mean ignoring other regions. Not all countries have the same degree of development or require the same services from the Organization.

I am sure that we are all clear about the magnitude of the problem facing us.

It is a particularly complex situation set against an international and institutional backdrop that I would not hesitate to describe as critical. Starting from that point, we intend to transform adversity into the force that galvanizes us, making it a stimulus for our imaginations and the very fount of the energy that we will need to put UNIDO on a firm footing for the next century.

The task will not be easy and naturally we feel doubts and anxieties. Despite that, we have decided to renew our commitment and combine our efforts to rebuild UNIDO for the 21st century, in the conviction that the right way to overcome these doubts and anxieties will be a future built on competitiveness and compelling need.

It has been said in various parts of the Organization that the origin of the financial crisis which has so severely affected UNIDO can be found in the failure of many Member States to pay their contributions.

I share that view, since I have had occasion personally to observe its negative consequences on current programmes and planned projects. I therefore add my voice to the exhortations of many delegations to recognize the need to eliminate this practice, and I appeal to those States who are in arrears with their contributions, or who have suspended payment, to remedy this situation by meeting their commitments as soon as possible.

We believe that we can find one of the keys to success, during the transformation process, in the way we think about problems, arming ourselves with modern logic and able to adapt rapidly to the new dynamism of changing future scenarios, and even seeking to anticipate that change. It will allow us to meet it on a sound financial basis and find effective solutions.

We foresee a future in which there will be fewer and fewer easy or right answers. Our life will be increasingly full of contradictions and paradoxes. We shall need at the same time continuity and change and achieve both. We must learn to weigh and balance the alternatives and develop new strategies to achieve a balance in a contradictory world. In a way, we are already on the threshold of this future. For example, I have just indicated that UNIDO must concentrate and decentralize at the same time. We need to be, at one and the same time, an Organization with a global reach and one that helps to solve local problems. We must plan for the long term while at the same time retaining the ability to be flexible. Our staff and our senior managers must have more independence while at the same time integrate better and more purposefully into a team. We must find a way of living and working with such contradictions, reconciling opposites instead of trying to choose between them.

I think that today it is more important than ever to embrace causes and ideals. More than that, I am convinced that without ideals, without a sound culture, based on principles accepted by all its members, the organizations of the future will not be able to survive. In the world of the global economy, you cannot compete or remain viable without achieving high-quality low-cost services. And you cannot achieve high quality and low cost without an organizational culture in which we all firmly believe.

In UNIDO's case, this will not be possible without the involvement of all the Member States, determined to create an "international community supraculture", modelled on common affinities and principles accepted by all those concerned.

We must accelerate the process of creating and strengthening this "supraculture", and lose no time in working to eradicate inequality, poverty and marginalization. I am one of those who believe that technology, and the prosperity and comfort that go with it, can only be enjoyed in a world of solidarity, and that they can only be enjoyed if they serve to improve the standard of living of each and every people on earth. I do not think it needs dogma to achieve that. Only a vocation of service and work.

I know your concern for the Organization and the future. I share that concern and that was the main reason why I submitted my candidature. For I am absolutely convinced that UNIDO has an important role to play in building the world economic system of the next century and that, by working together, we can enable it to fulfil that role.

Thank you.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me, Mr. President, to add my appreciation to the many congratulations addressed to you on your election to the Presidency of this General Conference, and especially for the magnificent way that you have fulfilled your task.

Your election by consensus demonstrates that the Member States recognize your professional abilities and talents.

I would also specially like to congratulate the distinguished members of the Main Committee, whose outstanding efforts have made it possible to implement the decisions adopted.

I would also like to extend my most cordial compliments to my predecessor, Mr. Mauricio de Maria y Campos, who has led our Organization with energy through the most difficult days in its history.

It is to his dedication and talent that we owe, in large measure, the fact that UNIDO's stability and the viability of its important mission are assured. We wish him the greatest success in the high office that he will hold in the future, which will no doubt benefit from the significant experience he has gained in this Organization.

Allow me, distinguished delegates, to thank you most deeply and sincerely for the trust and the honour that you have conferred on me today by giving me the opportunity and responsibility for undertaking such an important role in the life of the Organization. I will devote every determination and every effort to this task, and turn your many expectations, reflected in my election, into concrete results, which will help to improve the standard of living of our peoples, through UNIDO's specific objective - industrialization.

During the recent electoral process, I had the opportunity to enormously enrich my knowledge of UNIDO thanks to the invaluable advice of developed and developing countries, through their representatives here in Vienna and in the capitals of the eighteen countries that I was able to visit. The views I gathered from UNIDO staff at all levels were also of great help and most useful.

Throughout this process, it was easy to see a common thread: the desire to "transform" the Organization.

Transform it into a flexible and dynamic institution able to face up to a highly complex and changing international economic and political scene and, above all, substantially different from the one in which UNIDO was created and developed.

Transform it into an entity that is able to serve the Member States when the Community of Nations is not making obvious progress in overcoming poverty and marginalization, despite the enormous achievements in overcoming the conflicts which governed international relations for so many years.

In this sense, this Conference's decision to approve the "General Plan of Activities" submitted for its consideration by the Industrial Development Board, is of great importance. This document will certainly be the cornerstone of the demand for transformation.

You may note that I have throughout carefully and deliberately avoided using the word "reform". I believe that we need a period of calm. In the recent past, no doubt driven by circumstances, the word "reform" was used too often in association with the word "reduction". To continue to do the same, or to do things in the same way with a smaller budget, is not reform, it is reduction.

Reform, to my way of thinking, is more than that. It means changing structures and procedures, releasing resources and applying them to developing new products and seeking new and better ways of fulfilling the Organization's objectives. In a word, unlike reduction, it is the first step forwards in the process of transformation.

That is why I prefer to describe the process that lies ahead of us as one of transformation. Fortunately, we can take advantage of what has already been achieved through reduction and reform but we will have to include other things in order to bring about true transformation.

That was the mandate which clearly emerged from this honourable Conference concerning the UNIDO's role and priority activities, also relating to the allocation of the budget and staff to carry them out.

This, like other decisions adopted afterwards, reflects the will of all the Member States to work in an atmosphere of harmony, thus increasing the chance of consensus, rather than the alternative of calling for votes.

This is the necessary condition for the success of our transformation, and I will do all in my power to maintain and encourage this working environment. I will do it in the only way possible, by committing all my efforts, with transparency, with openness to criticism and with respect for all and every one of those involved in this transformation.

That is why I wish to devote myself to the utmost to fulfilling the mandate of this Conference without delay. I wish to apologize in advance to the many countries who have invited me to visit them and to ask them to understand my decision to stay in Vienna as much as possible in order to carry out the fundamental transformation which has been decided here. I know that they have been difficult and complex decisions. But I am convinced that they were taken with great determination and courage. Implementing these decisions will require sacrifice, determination, consensus, creativity and, above all, great commitment.

I believe my presence will be necessary to lead this process. I have made arrangements to start work immediately, and for that I shall require the permanent presence in this city of all the Organization's key management. I attach the greatest importance and the highest priority to forming a multidisciplinary and multinational working group to safeguard properly the Organization's objectives, without forgetting the diversity of regional interests.

Starting from the definition of roles and substantive activities set out in the "General Plan of Activities", we must immediately embark on implementing a new structure, with new working methods, a more precise definition of our products, services and programmes, and greater interaction between the Organization's various departments.

We shall have to do this while at the same time reducing the overlapping and duplication of tasks and activities with other agencies in the Multilateral System and with the bilateral aid programmes being implemented by many countries. It will therefore be necessary to integrate UNIDO more precisely in the United Nations System and, above all, interact more specifically with the private sector. Working with the private sector has to be one of my highest aspirations and priorities.

Greater integration with the private sector and with the Multilateral System, taking into account UNIDO's functions, will allow us to reach a better definition of areas of cooperation, programmes, products and services.

That will be the only way of reducing the budget to the levels approved by this Conference while still retaining our ability to serve the Member States. UNIDO cannot do everything for everyone on its own. The new reality compels us to interact with the rest of the Multilateral System if we wish to maintain our ability to serve developing countries. This reality not only involves a reduction in the resources available for multilateral economic cooperation, but also results from the application of a modern and dynamic concept of sustainable industrialization.

The reform of the United Nations proposed by the Secretary-General includes suggestions along these lines, and I have already had the opportunity to discuss them with him. We must explore this aspect more deeply in the future.

I shall have to redefine UNIDO's presence in the field very rapidly. To do this, it will be necessary to increase the independence and authority of field offices and improve their links and interaction with the rest of the Organization. It is virtually certain that it will be necessary to redistribute the human resources of the Organization, by transferring some of the experts from central offices, here in Vienna, to the field. The criteria to be used for this decentralization will be determined on a case by case basis.

Staff reductions will also have to be made immediately, with a maximum of transparency and absolute respect for the applicable regulations. I shall study this issue in consultation with representatives of the staff of UNIDO. Personally, I believe that the morale and enthusiasm of the Organization's staff will have to be restored, after they have been hit so many times by repeated reductions over recent years, using modern and transparent methods which allow them to develop, and in many cases, complete, an honourable and successful career.

But this transformation must have a purpose. It cannot be undertaken or explained as transformation for its own sake, it cannot be justified solely or even mainly on the grounds of reduced contributions or available resources.

Ours will therefore have the only possible purpose: the mandate issued by this General Conference, the need to remove the causes of the criticisms we hear of UNIDO. This transformation will seek to increase the impact of its activities in the field, especially in the least developed countries, and move towards the provision of more specific services, addressing more specific and better-targeted problems.

If we cannot help to solve practical everyday problems wherever necessary, wherever the need is present, wherever backwardness holds back people's development, then we cannot justify our transformation. Or even our existence. Nothing and no one can justify their existence on the basis of the past. It is by our present actions that we build our future.

Our priority must be Africa, and that is why I shall be listening closely to the Africans. We must review the value of what we do in this region and make our actions, services and programmes more effective. This does not mean ignoring other regions. Not all countries have the same degree of development or require the same services from the Organization.

I am sure that we are all clear about the magnitude of the problem facing us.

It is a particularly complex situation set against an international and institutional backdrop that I would not hesitate to describe as critical. Starting from that point, we intend to transform adversity into the force that galvanizes us, making it a stimulus for our imaginations and the very fount of the energy that we will need to put UNIDO on a firm footing for the next century.

The task will not be easy and naturally we feel doubts and anxieties. Despite that, we have decided to renew our commitment and combine our efforts to rebuild UNIDO for the 21st century, in the conviction that the right way to overcome these doubts and anxieties will be a future built on competitiveness and compelling need.

It has been said in various parts of the Organization that the origin of the financial crisis which has so severely affected UNIDO can be found in the failure of many Member States to pay their contributions.

I share that view, since I have had occasion personally to observe its negative consequences on current programmes and planned projects. I therefore add my voice to the exhortations of many delegations to recognize the need to eliminate this practice, and I appeal to those States who are in arrears with their contributions, or who have suspended payment, to remedy this situation by meeting their commitments as soon as possible.

We believe that we can find one of the keys to success, during the transformation process, in the way we think about problems, arming ourselves with modern logic and able to adapt rapidly to the new dynamism of changing future scenarios, and even seeking to anticipate that change. It will allow us to meet it on a sound financial basis and find effective solutions.

We foresee a future in which there will be fewer and fewer easy or right answers. Our life will be increasingly full of contradictions and paradoxes. We shall need at the same time continuity and change and achieve both. We must learn to weigh and balance the alternatives and develop new strategies to achieve a balance in a contradictory world. In a way, we are already on the threshold of this future. For example, I have just indicated that UNIDO must concentrate and decentralize at the same time. We need to be, at one and the same time, an Organization with a global reach and one that helps to solve local problems. We must plan for the long term while at the same time retaining the ability to be flexible. Our staff and our senior managers must have more independence while at the same time integrate better and more purposefully into a team. We must find a way of living and working with such contradictions, reconciling opposites instead of trying to choose between them.

I think that today it is more important than ever to embrace causes and ideals. More than that, I am convinced that without ideals, without a sound culture, based on principles accepted by all its members, the organizations of the future will not be able to survive. In the world of the global economy, you cannot compete or remain viable without achieving high-quality low-cost services. And you cannot achieve high quality and low cost without an organizational culture in which we all firmly believe.

In UNIDO's case, this will not be possible without the involvement of all the Member States, determined to create an "international community supraculture", modelled on common affinities and principles accepted by all those concerned.

We must accelerate the process of creating and strengthening this "supraculture", and lose no time in working to eradicate inequality, poverty and marginalization. I am one of those who believe that technology, and the prosperity and comfort that go with it, can only be enjoyed in a world of solidarity, and that they can only be enjoyed if they serve to improve the standard of living of each and every people on earth. I do not think it needs dogma to achieve that. Only a vocation of service and work.

I know your concern for the Organization and the future. I share that concern and that was the main reason why I submitted my candidature. For I am absolutely convinced that UNIDO has an important role to play in building the world economic system of the next century and that, by working together, we can enable it to fulfil that role.

Thank you.

Mr. Carlos Alfredo Magariños, UNIDO Director-General, 1997-2005